Six Reissued Plates, by Bing & Grøndahl
Outside the Lighted Window ∙ (1919, 2013)
They sipped cereal milk from their breakfast bowls while discussing the men his wife might consider dating when he would be dead, and the overall feeling was that younger would be best. More energy would be nice, their daughter added. Their son pointed out that the difficulty with young was that the young too frequently found themselves poorly capitalized. He looked at his son as though he were looking through a wine bottle. The boy had always been a shit person, even as a young child, and he found himself authentically surprised that a person could change so little over so many years. Perhaps a dancer, he suddenly offered the conversation. His wife made a face that seemed to suggest she liked the thought of dating a dancer, as he’d felt she might. Then he saw her look off to a distant place, as she sometimes would in those years. Perhaps, she reflected aloud, we place too much emphasis on the present moment.
Hare in the Snow ∙ (1920, 2006)
He’d never agreed that she was a person who always said what she meant. That was her deal. He did not concede it, nor did he protest it. He felt privately certain she was lying to herself.
Married people live among so many unrelated words, and when she approached him, again, and asked him to please stop suggesting that she’d meant something more than what she had simply and repeatedly requested, that he stop calling her “Bunny,” he said he was sorry, and he laughed, and he said something placating or philosophical.
But, honestly, if he were being honest with her, and he could not be, he frankly felt it was painful in obviousness that she did not in fact mean she cared about that name, at all, but rather she cared about something entirely unrelated to the name, some other agenda that she would conceal from him and from herself ad infinitum.
He resigned himself in a dramatically open performance to her point that he had not realized he had also been calling her other names (“Honey Pot,” “Angel Pants,” “Sweet Ass”), as he really hadn’t realized those names had been coming out of his mouth, and yet he felt it important to assert the futility in dwelling on such things, as there were, he felt strongly, as though he were in direct consultation with the future, a great deal of wonderful years left between them, too many years to make this issue into a dispute that might upset something he felt important to keep the opposite of upset.
Behind the Frozen Window ∙ (1895, 2011)
Perhaps he should have believed her, because times have changed, but he did not believe his daughter’s friend’s mother, Mrs. Lippmann, when she asked him if she might purchase his daughter for the day. He laughed. His wife would clarify for him later that Lippmann had recoiled as though snake-stricken because she’d realized too late that she had made this request of an idiot. He nodded. That made sense to him, because Lippmann might have just said, No, it’s not like that, but she did not say this, because a clarification on the matter would have been beneath them all. Exactly, his wife said, and she looked at him gratefully. They were eating cold strips of bacon on pretty blue plates at the dinner table. It was four in the afternoon. People made plans, and expectations were calibrated carefully in neighborhoods such as this, in families such as the Lippmann’s. If you want something badly enough, a price could be paid. He got it. He could see his world more clearly now. It isn’t the Molotov-Ribbentrop, his wife added, and he laughed. Indeed, it wasn’t. But he could immediately see in her face that he had yet again misunderstood.
Mother’s Day ∙ (1969, 2012)
They would run a nautical rope around the perimeter of the house property and link it to the ropes of their neighbors, so that every property line was cordoned off. The ropes would then be linked across the streets and larger highways with additional nautical ropes, until the end of each rope was at last moored to a large lead pipe lodged deep into a vacant lot or corn field. This was the first Sunday of every May. The point of all this was to slow down the traffic in and around that area. The tireless day-to-day grind, the incessant running to a destination that no one really knew, the headlong lust of the next place to be, or to be seen. Theirs was a time of tremendous upheaval, with barely a chimera of clarity, the brazen possession of so much material weight you could not consider carrying it. Things were simpler, and simple is not a concept or a vestige. The ropes saw to that, if only for the one day of the year. He knew she felt the ropes insensible. He knew she felt the ropes did nothing but complicate their own lives and potentially injure people, damage cars and wildlife, a colossal waste. She had said that the ropes seemed to suggest a disinterest in the people coming to and from the area, probably ethnic minorities. He said that everyone on their block loved all people, and that the ropes did not discriminate, as everyone was inconvenienced equally. Everyone could find themselves injured equally. The ropes would go down at sunset that night. No one could leave or go anywhere in their cars the entire day, and when they at last emerged from their houses they said they could see from the inside what it must feel like for so many others.
Pheasants in the Snow ∙ (1970, 2009)
The DJ thanked the community for coming out, encouraging everyone to keep their neighborhood cool, take a rocket pop for the walk home, and have a happy holiday. Also, she announced that DB was at the Q101.1 table and could DB’s mother please come collect him. We are looking for DB’s mother, folks, said the DJ. DB’s mother, we need you at the Q101.1 table. The DJ did not know that the no one knew DB’s mother, including DB. DB’s father knew DB’s mother, and he also knew DB. Certainly DB’s father knew DB well enough to know that DB was not DB, and that this was their son using the name DB to create a problem. A problem would occur, of course, naturally, once DB’s mother realized that her son was trying to create a problem with DB’s father at her expense. We are ready for you, DB’s mom. Anyone here know DB’s mom out there? Laughter might have stirred the community, had anyone been listening to the DJ other than DB’s father, who was standing right beside DB’s mother but could not find it in himself to stop this crisis. In some distant place in his soul, he thought that perhaps the lesson learned here would be DB’s. But, he would learn later, he was wrong. The police were eventually summoned, and only when the patrol car came up and DB pointed the officers to his mother and father did DB’s mother realize that DB had been her own son all along. They embraced, and she was upset, and it was then that DB explained that the boy’s father had called their son DB earlier that day, allegedly confusing the boy, though no one though the boy was any more confused than the father. The family then became divided among itself there in public, and regrettable things were aired, and they were to their community as foreign visitors ensnared in some difficult political crisis no one pretended to understand.
Skating Couple ∙ (1927, 2007)
His son did not say that he wished the Indonesian tsunami had happened to his own family, but he may have said he wished he had Indonesian friends so that he could better experience the feeling of the disaster that had unfurled there years ago and which was now discussed with gravity in school. The boy said something like he had never felt disaster before, and that he was curious. You do not court or invite disaster, his wife corrected their son. It comes readily enough. And you do not find personal strength in the suffering of others, was her council. They had come to the river to let their son swim, so they could stand on the mossy rocks in their bare feet and discuss the future of their marriage, given their broad differences in how a couple manages a household budget when one of them prioritized alcohol drinking and the other lists phrases like “fiscal prudence” among her top three priorities, third only behind (2) the “safety of” and (2) the “general health of” their children. So much seemed so bleak on those mossy rocks until their son came up against this current and expressed his desire that a tsunami carry everyone and everything away, forever. So much seemed so bleak until his wife disabused their child of his curiosity.